iBeacon seems to be making a pretty rapid transition into the mainstream, with stores like Apple, Macy’s, American Eagle, inMarket and bars all adopting it – as well as non-retail applications like Major League Baseball parks.

If you’re still not familiar with it, our iBeacon briefing provides the low-down, but the tl;dr summary is that when you walk into a retail store equipped with iBeacons, you’ll be invited to allow alerts to be sent to your iPhone. Say yes, and the store will be able to send you messages and invite you to view content based on anything it knows about you and where you are in the store.

The question is: will iBeacon alerts be a welcome way to add value to our visit, or just a new form of spam … ? 

My own view is it will very much depend on how intelligently retailers implement the system, and that personalization is key. Let’s start with examples of iBeacon alerts I’d welcome.

Store-wide offers (eg. spend $50 today and get 10% off)

This is about the only type of generic message I would welcome. It’s equally relevant whether we’re in the market for a new gadget or a new pair of shoes. Almost everything else, though, I think needs to be targeted based on either what the store knows about my purchase history, or from my in-store behaviour.

Specific product offers relevant to me

If stores use apps linked to loyalty memberships (or Apple ID in the case of Apple Stores), they ought to be able to base offers on purchase history. For example, if Apple knows I recently purchased an iPad Air but no case, it could send me offers on those.

Brand new products relevant to me

If a store knows I bought a bicycle GPS device there three years ago, and now there’s a much better model just out with a bunch of new features, it would be reasonable to let me know about it. Ideally, it would then use its awareness of my location in the store to guide me directly to the product. (Note to gadget retailers: I very specifically do not want to know when there’s a better model out than the one I bought just three weeks ago …)

Information & videos on products I’m looking at

If I’ve been standing in front of a product display for 30 seconds or more, it’s reasonable to assume I’m interested in it – and I’d welcome being sent a link to more product information or to a demonstration video.

What I don’t want to see

But what I don’t want to receive are offers on random products, ‘just in’ news on products that are of no interest to me, and links to product information just because I walked past a display.

I don’t want to know that it’s the store’s fifth anniversary, that there’s a live demonstration of a new Lego toy about to start, that there are hair-care representatives available for free consultations or that I can get a store card right now on the fifth floor.

Send me alerts relevant to me, and I’ll be a happy customer and you’ll probably sell me more stuff. Send me junk, and I’m going to decline future invitations and you’ll probably make me feel less inclined to shop in your store into the bargain.

What are your views? Can you think of other examples of alerts you’d like to receive? And how likely to you think retailers are to get it right? Let us know in the three-question poll and in the comments.

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About the Author

Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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